Mt. Carmel Wellness and Community Center has expanded its youth education focus with the offering of a new music program for children 10 years of age and older, up through high school.

Launched in early October with the vision of inspiring youth in the arts, students can learn, free of charge, how to play orchestral stringed instruments in a group.

Mt. Carmel currently offers a multitude of virtual youth programs, including a Kid’s Craft Hour which provides a creative outlet where children can heal their minds from the stress of isolation and fear surrounding COVID-19; Kid’s Karate, Kid’s Yoga and Youth Explorer Camps provide opportunities for youth to be physically active and learn healthy lifestyle skills; and Leaders of the Future, which includes a field trip to the state capital. From April to June 2020, Mt. Carmel’s virtual youth programs had over 400 enrollments.

“Youth programs are so important to developing young minds and keeping children connected in a positive and safe social setting,” said Ashley DiPaola, community center manager at Mt. Carmel. “Our youth are our future leaders, and we want to provide them ways to engage with complementary learning opportunities outside of their schools.”

The new orchestral instrumental music program is a first of its kind organized by Mt. Carmel. With a maximum group size of 12 and in adherence with public health orders, youth meet twice a week in Ziccardi Hall on Mt. Carmel’s campus, learning how to play a violin, viola, cello, or base over a 12-week semester period. While local high school classes do allow students to learn to play wind instruments, there are no other programs in Trinidad that focus on teaching stringed orchestral music.

The program was initially created for beginner musicians with little or no musical experience; however, Mt. Carmel looks to expand, eventually adding intermediate and advanced groups. For children, music not only provides an excellent outlet for expression, it can also lead to improved academic performance. In a recent study conducted by the University of British Columbia, research found that students who participated in music-related activities between the ages 7-12 generally scored higher on science, math, and English exams during high school, when compared to their non-musical classmates.

“It is our goal to allow any student who wants to join the program, the ability to do so,” said Laura Jordan, health and wellness coordinator at Mt. Carmel. “Offering this opportunity to engage our youth in the arts allows them to see other possibilities for themselves and learning to play music can fuel their creativity and confidence.”

In addition to not having an enrollment fee, participating students are also provided instruments free to use during their first semester of instruction. If students choose to continue in the program after their first quarter, they can rent their instrument on a monthly basis or purchase a new instrument at a discount price.

Jacob Seekatz is the conductor for the new music program. Seekatz began playing violin at age 10 and has over 15 years of experience playing and teaching music. He has played with the CSU-Pueblo Orchestra, Pueblo Symphony Orchestra, and the Chamber Orchestra at the Pikes Peak Center, and has taught the Pueblo Youth Orchestra.

A Christmas Concert is planned for late December at the Mt. Carmel Chapel. The concert will be held in person or virtually, depending on COVID-19 guidelines in place at that time.

For enrollment or questions on any of Mt. Carmel’s youth program, contact Laura Jordan at 719-845-4894 or ljordan@mtcarmelcenter.org.

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